The girl’s name was Julie, and I’d had my eye on her since the very first day of junior high. 

The author, ’80s cool. File photo

To me, this girl had it all. The big brown eyes, the Kate Jackson hair, the books covered so expertly with brown paper bags. …  If I had my way, someday soon she’d be scrawling my initials all over those book covers, mandatory hearts and arrows included. 

I made my move by positioning myself next to her locker between science class and gym. My hair was perfectly feathered, my breath greatly improved with a Tic Tac and the collar of my denim jacket was pulled straight up, so you just KNOW I was as cool as all get out. 

“So,” I began, launching into the beautifully crafted pickup line I’d rehearsed in the boys room mirror. “You want to go out sometime, or what?” 

Julie thought about it, shifting her books from one arm to the other. The politics of junior high were in play here and there was much to be considered. Here was a straight-A student, captain of the glee club and winner of the district spelling bee being asked out by a known rake. 

It was “West Side Story” all up in here, with romance about to brew between your classic good girl and a mischievous lad from the other side of the tracks. (I wasn’t from the rough side of town, necessarily, but there were literally train tracks between Julie’s neighborhood and mine so I’m sticking with that phrasing for the drama). 

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I don’t know if it was the feathered hair, the chamois shirt or the WBLM belt, but in the end, Julie was overcome in spite of the social obstacles. 

“I’m going roller skating Friday,” she said. “You should come.” 

Well, that was a kick straight to the seat of my carpenter pants. Frankly, I wish she’d just shot me down and sent me on my way. 

Roller skating. !!#[email protected]#! 

Mind you, I had nothing against roller skating per se. It’s just that I flat out hated roller skating and couldn’t think of a worse setting in which to woo my young Kate Jackson clone. 

I was from a hockey background, you must understand. I was one of those kids who learned to skate on ice around the same time he learned to walk. Ice skates have cold steel blades that are sharpened regularly, to the point where they could be used to gut a deer if the situation called for it. 

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Roller skates, on the other hand, have eight plastic wheels on the bottom of the boot and a dainty, little brake pad thing on the toe. The mechanics of using them were entirely foreign to me. 

In ice skating, in order to come to an abrupt stop, one turns sharply and digs his blades into the ice, showering everyone within a 6-foot radius with shards of ice and snow. I mean, someone could lose an eye, so you know it’s great fun. 

To stop on roller skates, one (I assume) presses that little brake pad against the skating surface, bringing himself to a polite and graceful stop and no one at all is sprayed with flying debris. I mean, where’s the fun in that? 

To make a long story short here, I was a skating wizard on ice, but there was just no way I was going to be able to impress Kate Jackson on roller skates and the lass just wouldn’t take my alternative plans, which included riding on the back of my dirt bike in the mud, sneaking into an R-rated movie or huntin’ for frogs out behind the armory. 

So, I went roller skating, kept trying to stop as though I were on ice and fell down a lot as a result. When I was on my feet, I was stiff and awkward, unable to move with the speed of a Tasmanian devil as I could in ice skates. Even with my coat collar pulled extra high, I could just never ascend to the level of ice hockey cool. As a result, I came home that night, bitter, bruised and alone, mollified only by the act of tearing my stupid “Charlie’s Angels” poster to shreds. So take THAT, Kate Jackson. 

Mind you, I DID end up dating Julie for a long time — a full semester, if I remember right — but it wouldn’t last. The bowling incident killed the relationship utterly, which is why I detest bowling as much as I do roller skating. 

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But anyhoo, where was I going with this? 

Oh, yes. Roller skating. Over the past couple weeks, I worked on putting together a story about the Rollodrome in Auburn, and I gotta tell you: I had absolutely no idea how important that place has been to so many generations. I talked to so many people whose lives were downright shaped by their experiences at the ‘Drome, I couldn’t use but half of them.  

I spoke with several men and women who had met their future spouses at the Rollodrome and now they have children AND grandchildren who skate there. It’s straight up amazing how long and successful a run that place has had here and it makes me wonder: If I’d grown up in wheel-centric Lewiston-Auburn, would I have been more inclined to learn to roller skate more proficiently? Would I thus have been able to dazzle Julie into succumbing fully to my charms and would we be married to this day? 

It’s doubtful. After the unfortunate events at the Bowl-o-Rama, we couldn’t even look at each other anymore. It’s all very sad and sordid, but I would never bore you with such a story.

Mark LaFlamme is the crime reporter for the Sun Journal. He still loves hockey and pops his collar.

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